EDD needs months and years to better protect Social Security numbers

California's Employment Development Department said it will take months and, in some cases, years to correct a problem in which the office has unsafely handled the personal data of millions of people.

The EDD has been criticized for including the Social Security numbers of 38 million people in letters and forms sent from the office, raising the risk of identity theft.

The department said Monday it's on track to eliminate this problem with a particular form of correspondence by August.

Social Security numbers on all other forms will not be eliminated until 2023, the EDD said.

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The mishandling of personal data came to light in an audit by another California agency. The state auditor's office said it had told the EDD in March 2019 to change the way it treated Social Security numbers, yet the problem persists.

Some residents have received stacks of mail from the EDD for people who do not live at their address. Personal information, like Social Security numbers, are shown in some of these pieces of mail.

The EDD has struggled to keep up with the huge number of people applying for benefits during the pandemic.  It has also apparently been targeted by scammers filing bogus claims for unemployment assistance.